Marvin Josephson, president
emeritus of Friends of
Israel Defense Forces, and
Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon

Harry and Barbara Wittlin

Benny Shabtai presents award to
Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon
Photo by FIDF

Chief Of Staff Drums Up Support
For Recreational Needs of Troops

Story by Nina Boxer
Photos by Tim Boxer

HIGHLIGHT of the annual Friends of the Israel Defense Forces benefit was a live satellite feed of troops on the front lines. Some 1200 guests at the Waldorf-Astoria viewed a video of soldiers serving on the Philadelphia Corridor, a bleak stretch of sand separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt.

“Our job,” said one soldier, “is to find the tunnels through which the terrorists smuggle weapons from Egypt . We find them mainly from good intelligence.”

Recently a terrorist was digging in the tunnel toward an Israeli base with intent to blow it up. Suddenly the tunnel collapsed.

“The Palestinians called us for help,” the soldier said. “We rescued the digger from the debris and saved his life. That’s the difference between them and us.”

That difference was brought home to Osnat Vishinsky, a famous Israeli actress and comedienne.

She related how her son, Lior, was so determined and committed to joining the IDF in 2001 that he wanted to serve only in a high-risk position. On May 12, 2004 , his unit was sent to the Philadelphia Corridor to destroy a gun-smuggling tunnel.  His personnel carrier took a direct hit from a grenade that killed him and four comrades.

“Our heartbreak was unbearable,” Osnat sighed. “Our home was so full, and now so empty.”

Last Rosh Hashana Osnat visited the corridor to see for herself “this accursed place.” She felt how “any minute could be your last.”

Dinner chairman Benny Shabtai noted, “The life of an Israeli soldier is very difficult – and that’s on a good day.”

The gala, attended by 1200 supporters, raised $8.5 million for the recreational, spiritual and educational needs of IDF personnel.

Among the guests were Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya’alon, who retired in June as chief of general staff; Rear Admiral Eli Marum, liaison officer to the U.S. Joint Forces Command, who intercepted the Karin A weapons smuggling ship; Marvin Josephson, president emeritus of Friends of the IDF; Gabriel Erem, publisher of Lifestyles; hotel owner Harry Wittlin; Monica Crowley, anchor on MSNBC; and Jason Schwalbe, grandson of the late John Klein, founder of Friends of the IDF in the U.S.

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